‘Breaking Boundaries with my speech!’
I was born profoundly Deaf: I use a cochlear implant to help me to hear. Growing up I attended numerous speech therapy lessons with different therapists, none of which I remember enjoying as I always felt it was something I had to do, it was a chore. However, fast forward to my current situation, I am grateful for the sessions I had when growing up and the hard work I put into my speech with the help of my parents as I can successfully converse with people in Spoken English. I also use British Sign Language and I am proud of my Deaf identity. However, I became dissatisfied with my speech production after a few years into my career as a teacher where I have to meet and work with many different professionals, parents and children. At a very young age I learnt to avoid words that have certain phonemes that I find difficult e.g ‘t’ ‘d’. I wasn’t able to avoid all of the words but I continually found myself searching for other words so that I could replace the phonemes which I am not confident in producing. This was exhausting, and I had had enough. I was determined to improve my speech, so I did some research and I found Elizabeth’s clinic. Although she had no prior experience of working with deaf people, she agreed to take me on.
For my first session, I thought about cancelling because I had a small voice in my head saying that it would be pointless and I was apprehensive that Elizabeth might say that my speech can’t be worked on because I was old to make improvements. However, as I paid the deposit prior to the first appointment, I had no choice!!
I am so glad I followed through in attending the first appointment as my sessions with Elizabeth have been life changing. After my first session, Elizabeth asked me to bring someone with me to support my learning outside of the sessions. My mother attends the sessions with me to practise between sessions to consolidate my new speech patterns which I believe is vital to making progress.
Elizabeth assessed my speech without being critical. She listens to how I feel with regards to my speech and works on the areas which I know need improving as well as areas which she highlights. She uses different strategies to help me accomplish success. We have worked on individual speech sounds and the production of multi syllabic words. If Elizabeth feels that I am unable to produce the sound, she is innovative, flexible and changes the way she is teaching me. During each session she explains to me why I have experienced difficulties in the particular area by explaining the placement of the tongue and the productions of the phonemes in detail. I find this very interesting as a teacher as it enriches my professional knowledge of phonetics. I am now producing two phonemes that I thought I would never be able to produce. I am also working on more.
Due to the current situation of Covid-19, we have moved from face-to-face to sessions using Zoom, and this new way of teaching and learning is proving to be very effective. Elizabeth is able to share her screen via zoom, she uses this to show me how to break down multi-syllablic words and highlights the sound that I need stress in a word so I can produce the word correctly. She is also able to share a list of words on her screen to produce. Elizabeth is conscientious about using zoom with me as she knows I need to be able to see her face clearly in order to lipread her.
I know my speech production has improved in the areas we have been working and my self-confidence has improved in my daily communication with others. I am no longer searching for other words to replace the words I avoid saying, I am now saying them with confidence. Elizabeth is always very honest and positive by highlighting my success. I am committed to improving my speech and I know Elizabeth is helping me do this, I really look forward to my speech therapy sessions.
A Mother’s Perspective
I have to admit to being sceptical as to how useful more speech therapy sessions would be for my daughter considering the number she had attended as a child. L’s speech reproduction was perfectly intelligible, and I had accepted there were sounds which she could not differentiate and therefore was unable to reproduce in her speech. I was worried she was setting herself up for disappointment however I had not factored in L’s indomitable determination and Elizabeth’s expertise as a speech therapist.
We attended face to face sessions at Elizabeth’s clinic until we had to go online because of the coronavirus. L already after only six sessions has been able to achieve what I had thought was impossible. How did this happen?
Elizabeth quickly built a relationship of trust with both of us but more importantly with L. She feels valued, listened to and is confident when working with Elizabeth. She includes me in the sessions allowing me to gain the expertise needed to help L as she moves through the new speech reproduction techniques. As a teacher myself, I have watched often in awe as Elizabeth built on the sound knowledge which L already had. Through explaining the placement of the tongue in her mouth and how the sounds are produced this enables her to reproduce new sounds through hearing and feeling the difference. Elizabeth patiently breaks the sounds in a word into chunks, encouraging L and adapting the techniques she uses so that success can be achieved. The use of the app, ‘Word Vault’ allows L the opportunity to practice her sounds using different words. She now produces many words accurately and much more intelligibly than she was able to do before.
Since going online our sessions are a new experience for us all but have proved equally successful. I am so glad that we have been able to continue working together. The screen sharing is invaluable, the sound quality is excellent, and progress continues to be made using this technology. I am watching my daughter’s speech improve subtly and this is making great difference to her self-esteem. This has been a learning and incredibly emotional experience for me, Elizabeth has a wealth of linguistic knowledge which has resulted in continued improvement in speech which would not have been possible in the past.